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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Howard (19)


Stafford Rangers

Reid (36), Briscoe (42), Sherratt (70)

(1) 1

(2) 3



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Nathan Fox




Tamworth (H) 8.9.18

The mystery of Hednesford's woeful home form continued this evening as Rob Smith's men are soundly beaten by a more experienced Stafford Rangers outfit in the big Chase derby at Keys Park


Buoyed by two excellent wins on the road over Farsley Celtic and Whitby Town, Hednesford returned to Keys Park looking to arrest a 100% losing record at home that was starkly at odds with their perfect away record of three wins from three. Smith had been busy using his contacts in the previous few days to bring in goalkeeper Daniel Eccles from Vanarama National League North side Chorley on a short-term loan, having lost first choice keeper Josef Bursik to the England U19 squad this week. Joe Fitzpatrick was also missing from the side that had started against Whitby, with the available-again Reece King coming in for Fitzpatrick after serving his three-match ban


Steve Burr's Stafford outfit had finally recorded their first win of the season on Saturday - a 2-0 win over Burr's former club Stalybridge Celtic - and arrived at Keys Park with a number of familiar faces in their ranks; Louis Briscoe, Tom Thorley and Kyle Perry all started the evening's game, whilst former young team defender Tom Marshall was amongst the substitutes


Jed Davies was afforded plenty of time and space in front of the Stafford penalty area on seven minutes, with the diminutive midfielder firing in a shot that was deflected wide of the Stafford goal for a corner kick


Stafford enjoyed a good period of pressure in the next ten minutes, forcing a clutch of corner kicks and free kicks that were well fielded by the Pitmen, despite Briscoe's best attempts to find an opening for Rangers


A Briscoe corner kick on fifteen minutes found the head of Stafford skipper Luke Jones at the far post, but the centre-back could only direct his effort into the side-netting


The Pitmen swept into the lead with a well-taken goal from Michael Howard on nineteen minutes, as Dan Cockerline did well to rob right-back Lewis Banks and feed the ball to Nathan Fox. The left-back swung in a great cross into the penalty area, where Howard fired home confidently with a half-volley past Adam Whitehouse in the Stafford goal


Perry's usual antics were on full display from the off, berating officials for the smallest infringement and riling the Hednesford defence with his constant pushing and aggression. He got on the end of a Jack Sherratt ball on twenty-four minutes but headed the ball across the face of goal and failed to find Izak Reid, who was beaten to the loose ball by Charlie Gatter


Stafford had ramped up the pressure on the Hednesford defence since the goal, although Matt Curley created a superb opening for the Pitmen on twenty-eight minutes with a glorious swinging cross into the Stafford six-yard box which no-one in white could get onto the end of

More over-dramatic play from Perry hoodwinked the referee into awarding Stafford a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area on thirty-six minutes, with the big striker collapsing in dramatic fashion following a challenge from Callam Mendez-Jones that failed to connect with the Stafford striker. This was to prove the Pitmen's undoing, however, as a lack of communication in defence saw Eccles and Mendez-Jones fail to decide on whether the right-back should be in the wall or not. The end product saw Reid have a perfect, unobstructed view of the Hednesford net, with the forward drilling the ball past Eccles despite the young keeper's attempts to keep the ball from finding the bottom corner of the net


The Pitmen were wobbling, with passes going astray and the ball coming back to them at regular intervals as Stafford finished the half the strongest. Perry again earned his side a free-kick on forty-two minutes, with Davies receiving a dubious booking for the foul on the frontman. Briscoe stepped up and unleashed a shot from fully twenty-five yards out, somehow finding the right-hand corner of the net to give the visitors the lead. Eccles will not have been happy with his positioning for the free-kick, nor the fact he allowed a long-range, bouncing shot to somehow deceive him to his right so easily


Briscoe tried his luck once more two minutes later, only for Eccles to get his angles right to claim another free-kick from roughly the same distance out as the midfielder's goal


The half ended in frustration for the Pitmen, as Cockerline's one and only chance of the half saw him head a deep Davies free-kick straight at Whitehouse from point-blank range in added time to send the Pitmen in a goal down


Half-time saw Smith make a tactical switch, with winger Matt Dodd coming on to give the hosts some badly-needed width at the expense of Hollis to support Cockerline and Howard


Mendez-Jones made an early foray into Stafford territory as the second half kicked off with both clubs kicking towards their fans, with the referee unmoved as the defender went down in the penalty area looking for a penalty kick


Stafford had a goal chalked off for Rangers on fifty-one minutes, as he headed home at the far post, only to be denied by the assistant on the Wimblebury side following a foul on Gatter as he challenged for the ball


A swift break from the home side three minutes later saw Dodd and Davies combine, with Davies floating in a teasing cross that Cockerline did well to get to first, but headed weakly at Whitehouse


Smith went early with his final two substitutions on fifty-eight minutes, making a bold double switch that saw Sam Grimshaw come on in place of the out-of-sorts King and new boy Lewis Archer making his home debut in place of Howard


Fox - one of the few players in a white shirt to shine for the Pitmen on a disappointing evening - sent over a great cross for Cockerline on sixty-four minutes, which eventually ended up back at the feet of the striker after a lay-off to Dodd had seen the substitute's shot rebound to him. However, his first touch was poor in front of goal and allowed Jones to hack the ball clear


With the Pitmen adding more forward players to the team, there was plenty of space for Rangers to exploit at the back. On sixty-eight minutes, a quick break caught the Pitmen out on the right, with Reid firing into the side-netting after being played in by Sherratt


Stafford ended the game as a contest and once again exposed the Pitmen's soft underbelly at set-pieces by grabbing a killer third goal on seventy minutes. A free-kick wide on the left was whipped in by Reid and found Sherratt, who volleyed home at the near post


Rangers fancied another goal to rub salt into the wounds, with Eccles making a fine save on seventy-five minutes as he held a low shot from Sherratt down to his left after the midfielder had advanced on the Hednesford penalty area


Galinski tried his best to drag his side back into contention with twelve minutes remaining, getting on the end of a Davies free-kick and looping a header towards goal. Once again, however, Whitehouse was equal to his effort and turned the ball over the crossbar for a corner kick


Stafford were forced to play the final ten minutes with ten men, as Sherratt was shown a second yellow card on eighty minutes for a late challenge on Curley in midfield


There was a late flurry of yellow cards for Rangers, as substitute Benns and Perry were both booked for dissent after the referee had had enough of the continual pressing from the Stafford payers


Despite the numerical advantage, the Pitmen failed to muster an effort on goal in the closing stages to leave their supporters once again frustrated. How can a side that has been so impressive on the road in recent days turn in another poor home display on their biggest night of the season? A number of players simply failed to perform against another experienced, solid, rigid Northern League side, once again looking lightweight and lacking that ability to be 'streetwise' against more experienced opponents. Another severe test of the Pitmen's confidence at Keys Park follows on Saturday, with Tamworth the visitors in the first qualifying round of the F.A. Cup


Hednesford Town: Eccles, Mendez-Jones, King (Grimshaw 58), Hollis (Dodd 45), Galinski ©, Gatter, Curley, Davies , Cockerline, Howard (Archer 58), Fox     Subs Unused: Craddock, Griffiths


Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Banks, Askey, Jones ©, Coulson, Sherratt  ▆ (81), Briscoe (Benns 62 ), Thorley, Perry , Reid  (Green 80), Cuff (Bailey-Jones 56)     Subs Unused: Reeves, Marshall

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